Three minutes to a better back

Image by  Dreamin in the deep south , Flikr Creative Commons.

Image by Dreamin in the deep south, Flikr Creative Commons.

If you don’t have time for a full yoga practice every day, it is still possible (and still important!) to move your spine in the six primary directions. Exercising the spine when first waking the morning and again before bed will help keep it and the systems it supports healthy. In just three minutes a day (1 ½ minutes in the morning and 1 ½ at night), you can take a big step toward preventing back pain and injury.

Morning Routine

Try to do these as soon as you get out of bed. These exercises are done standing, and can even be done in the shower or while you brush your teeth if you like to multitask. Hold each pose for three breaths.

  1. Hanging forward bend (with knees bent) – this should be a relaxed forward bend, and can be done leaning against a wall if you like.
  2. Back Extension – clasp your hands behind your back and press your knuckles down and away from your body, pulling your shoulder blades and lifting through the ribcage.
  3. Lateral Flexion – extend your left hand toward the ceiling and reach your right hand to the floor, stretching the left side of the torso. Hold and repeat on the other side.
  4. Rotation – Twist at the waist to your right. Bring your left hand to your right hip and either extend your right hand behind you or place it on your left hip. Hold and repeat on the other side.

Night Routine

These poses can be done lying down in bed, or you can repeat the morning exercises if you prefer. Hold each pose for three to five breaths.

  1. Paschimottanasana (seated in bed) – keep the knees soft, or maybe bent with a pillow underneath for support.  Fold forward, allowing a slight round in the upper back as your head drops.
  2. Matsyasana (fish pose) in bed – bring your hands under your sacrum and press into your elbows as you reach your sternum upward. Make sure your shoulders are drawn down the back and away from the ears.
  3. Lateral Bend – Sit comfortably in the bed. Bring your right hand to the side and stretch your left hand over head, lengthening through the left side of your torso. Hold, then repeat on the other side.
  4. Reclined Twist – Lie in bed. Draw your right knee to your chest. Keeping your right shoulder on the bed, let your right knee fall toward the left. Hold then return to center. Release your knee and repeat on the other side.


Remembering to do the exercises might be a challenge at first—try putting a reminder post-it on your alarm clock or bathroom mirror until these exercises are as automatic as the rest of your morning and night routine. If you don’t remember them in the morning, squeeze them in at lunch or whenever you can—although frequent and regular movement is best, a little is certainly much better than none.

If you do want a full yoga practice, try our Yoga for Back Pain class--it's on our regular weekly schedule. Intro to Yoga and Restore may also be great gentler options for the beginning student.